By a vote of 217 to 141, members of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe Wednesday approved submitting a fee-to-trust application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to allow construction of a new tribal off-reservation casino in Shullsburg.
In 2004, the tribe purchased 92 acres for the proposed casino, but the BIA would not give its approval for the additional off-reservation gambling.
In 2008, the BIA rejected the 2004 proposal after a rules change, but recent additional rules changes prompted the tribe to try once again to gain BIA approval.
“The tribe has long believed that building an off-reservation casino can go a long way toward helping us meet our unmet needs,” Tribal Chairman Tom Maulson said. “No one believes that BIA approval will be an easy accomplishment, but what will happen if we do nothing?”
If the tribe’s application is approved they could build a hotel and casino larger than Lake of the Torches, including a 30,000 square-foot business center and campground.
A referendum in Shullsburg prior to the initial 2004 application passed by 87 percent. A formal Schullsburg Citizens Group led by Shullsburg Mayor Tom Lethlean is currently lobbying their elected officials in support of the project.
Tribal officials have said the casino would improve quality of life in Lac du Flambeau, funding health care and dental care improvements, and supporting elder care, education, community nutrition, and law enforcement.
The tribe has had a formal working group studying the issue and their findings have been presented to tribal members in a series of six information meetings and two public hearings.
“We’ve carefully examined the viability of the Shullsburg opportunity, including recent actions by the BIA, conducted new financial and market feasibility studies, evaluated prior work product and held talks with Shullsburg officials,” Duane Chapman, the tribal work group’s leader, said.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.